14 June – This is Now: Film and Video After Punk

This is Now: Film and Video After Punk  is a major project curated by William Fowler (Curator of Artists’ Moving Image, BFI National Archive) that looks at artists’ film and video from the post-punk era (1978–85).

The program will be NOT ANYMORE introduced by Will Fowler DUE TO THE STRIKES IN UK.

Here an extensive and interesting interview with Will Fowler by the film programmer and writer Pamela Cohn:

http://bombmagazine.org/article/4203819/william-fowler

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Background:

The early 1980s saw an explosion in alternative and independent moving image production. Clubbers, art students, new romantics and members of the post-punk scene used cheap domestic technologies to subvert the mainstream media and to find new modes of expression. Independent VHS tapes were released, stridently bypassing censorship, and Super 8 film was embraced as a cheap yet lyrical new medium. The DIY approach of punk was powerfully reborn.

Artists defied conventional ideas about how film should be made and who should make them. Female, gay and black filmmakers pushed forward; squatting flats, clubbing and developing new styles and techniques together. Derek Jarman collaborators, John Maybury and Cerith Wyn Evans experimented with Super 8, casting friends Leigh Bowery and Siouxsie Sioux in fragmented, dreamlike scenarios. Isaac Julien and Grayson Perry explored the politics of cultural and personal representation, and major pop video director Sophie Muller (Beyoncé, Rihanna, The Strokes) printed and layered images on 16mm.

This is Now celebrates the diversity of independent moving image production from the UK in the 1980s, a unique moment when cheap new technologies enabled new voices to be heard. A new aesthetic developed that would shape the look of film, television, fashion and music for many years to come. The BFI National Archive has restored twenty Super 8 and 16mm films from this period and the majority of titles are presented for the first time in over three decades. Developed over several years, these programmes revisit a key period in the cultural life of the UK and reflect on the currency that this work has with internet video and artist filmmaking today.

EYE screens two of the seven compilations of the total programme.

Still from The Court of Miracles, directed by John MayburyStill from The Court of Miracles, directed by John Maybury

The compilation Just Images: The moral, political and symbolic integrity of the image itself is explored, attacked and undermined in these very richly textured films. John Maybury casts friends Siouxsie Sioux and David Holah in one of the singularly most stunning and ambitious Super 8 works of the era: Court of Miracles. Young filmmakers bring on the post-modern age.

Court of Miracles (John Maybury, GB, 1982. 40’)

Glory Boys (Vanda Carter, GB, 1983, 4’)

Territories (Isaac Julien, GB, 1984, 25’)

Psychic TV: Unclean (Cerith Wyn Evans & John Maybury, GB, 1984, 9’)

The compilation Video Killed the Radio Star: Early independent video releases were the revolutionary, DIY antidote to a TV system only just gearing up to a fourth channel. They bypassed censorship and gave a platform to the marginalised and unsanctioned. This eclectic selection includes a very rare John Smith title and punchy, stuttering Scratch Video works by The Duvet Brothers, Kim Flitcroft & Sandra Goldbacher, Gorilla Tapes and George Barber.

Echo and the Bunnymen: Shine So Hard (John Smith, GB, 1981, 32’)

Campagne Tapes The Miners ‘: The Lie Machine (GB, 1984, 15’)

The Greatest Hits van Scratch Video deel 2 (GB, 1984, 25’)

 

 

7 June h 19.15 – Films by Brothers Quay in Eye

An evening with three masterworks of animation by the Brothers Quay on 35mm: In Absentia, The Comb and Street of Crocodiles.

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In Absentia (2000, UK, 20 min) – A collaboration with the celebrated avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, who composed and conducted original music for the film. Shot in black and white and color and projected in CinemaScope, IN ABSENTIA combines live action and animation with dazzling use of light to convey the mindscape of a woman alone in a room repeatedly writing a letter with broken off pieces of pencil lead, while outside her window vistas of ever changing light register her every emotion. The film is dedicated to “E.H. who lived and wrote to her husband from an asylum.” IN ABSENTIA was produced by Keith Griffiths at Koninck for the BBC and Pipeline Films’ series of short music films “Sound on Film International.”

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The Comb (1990, UK, 18 min) opens in the shadowy bedroom of a sleeping beauty and seems to enter her mind and burrow into her dreams. Based on a fragment of text by the Austrian writer Robert Walser, THE COMB is an exploration of the subconscious visualized as a labyrinthine playhouse haunted by a doll-like explorer. A mesmerizing and resonant blend of live action and animation, THE COMB is set to a sensuous score of violins, guitars and attic room cries and whispers, and bathed in a gorgeous golden glow.

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Street of Crocodiles (1986, UK, 21 min) – This Quays’ masterpiece is adapted from a short story by Polish writer Bruno Schulz and was their first film shot on 35mm. A museum keeper spits into the eyepiece of an ancient peep-show and sets the musty machine in motion, plunging the viewer into a nightmarish netherworld of bizarre puppet rituals among the dirt and grime.

“On display in a deserted provincial museum is an old viewing Kinetoscope machine with a map indicating the precise district of the Street of Crocodiles. Lodged deep within this wooden oesophagus lie the internal configurations and mechanisms of the Street of Crocodiles like some quasi-anatomical exhibit. The anonymous offering of human saliva by an attendant caretaker activates and releases the Schulzian theatre from stasis into permanent flux. Myth stalks the streets of this parasitical zone where the mythological ascension of the everyday is charted by a marginal interloper who threads himself through this one night of the Great Season. No centre can be reached and the futile pursuit concludes in the deepest rear rooms of a slightly dubious tailor’s shop.” –The Quay Brothers.

An evening curated in collaboration with the Holland Festival for which the Quays designed an impressive video background for Theatre of the World, Louis Andriessen’s new opera.

References:

zeitgeistfilms.com

wikipedia.com

5 and 6 June h 19.15 – Stop Acting Now – Extended Edition Wunderbaum

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What will happen after the crisis? This was the question Wunderbaum took as their starting point for a series of performances entitled The New Forest, a four-year search for new forms of community. Neither utopia nor dystopia, The New Forest, according to project partner and sociologist Willem Schinkel, is a heterotopia, a place from which to view the world in a different way. Moving between reality and fiction, the project explores the process of change.

As the finale to their project The New Forest, Wunderbaum have made a film in which the artists collective stop play-acting and start acting for real. Director Mijke de Jong follows the actors in their frantic efforts to radically change the world. Their idealist projects range from developing an app for urban gardeners to creating a space for sad stories, the ‘Bar of Tears’. But their ideas are not as easily realised as they initially thought. Stop Acting Now– extended editon features a theatrical aftertalk following the screening of the film, with the former actors reviewing the turbulent events depicted in the film. What have they achieved with their social commitment and idealism? Have they returned to the stage? Are they actually still together as a group?

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Biography

Wunderbaum are a Dutch-Flemish actors’ collective who create performances dealing with current issues, mainly on location but also in the theatre. Usually they write their own scripts based on research; occasionally they commission authors to write for them. Wunderbaum have performed in the Netherlands as well as abroad, including the United States, Iran. Scandinavia and Brazil.

The program is part of the Holland Festival.

31 May – Art & Activism by University of Amsterdam

UvA Students reflect on their own institution’s history of questioning what roles art, research, universities and art institutions play in society. University protest – and film within this – will be a core concern. Videos of the recent Maagdenhuis occupation will be shown.

The 21st century is witness to new forms of experimentation at the crossroads of art and politics, resulting in artists leaving their traditional spaces and entering into public terrains, as well as political activists choosing creative, art-like forms of protest and intervention. Art, performance and activism intertwine. What understandings may art and the humanities provide in grasping these events, interventions and movements?

University of Amsterdam students have taken as their primary focus artistic approaches to activism from theatre, visual art and performance. Film intersects with them all. The students themselves come from Theatre Studies, Artistic Research, Art History, but also further afield – and they are UvA students, reflecting on their own institution’s history of questioning what roles art, research, universities and art institutions play in society. University protest – and film within this – will be a core concern.

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The program begins at h 19.15 in the cinema 2 and includes among several films Omdat mijn fiets daar stond (Because my bike stood there, 1966, NL, 11 min) by Louis van Gasteren (1922-2016).

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At h 21.00 the last and more personal film of Luis van Gasteren, Nema aviona za Zagreb (There is no plane for Zagreb, 2012, 80 min, 2012), will be presented and introduced by Patricia Pisters, author of Filming for the Future – The Work of Louis van Gasteren (2015).

Visitors who bought the tickets for the program at h 19.15 can enjoy Nema aviona za Zagreb for free.

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Decolonising the Curatorial: A Visit to Framer Framed

In preparation for the May 24 Research Lab A Sensorium of Cinematic Apparatuses, the students of the UvA MA seminar Curating the Moving Image reflect in their blog posts on a particular aspect of the themes in the required theoretical readings or on the development of the curated EYE on Art evening.

Decolonizing the Curatorial
By Elinor Gittins

In the final week of the course, ‘Curating the Moving Image’, we discuss the norms of Western curation and the way these traditions have been disrupted. When thinking about the term ‘decolonise’, we might ask, how does the process of decolonising curation differ from the genre of postcolonial curation? To me, the difference seems to be temporal. Where the prefix post- suggests a timeframe that comes after the event, the prefix de- suggest that a process is ongoing. This might explain why there is growing interest in the ideas expressed in decolonial theory. Curator Irit Rogoff describes the problem with postcolonial theory as follows: “You can never have the right stance or ethical posture. Instead, you are mired in it, you’re part of it, you’re deeply implicated in in it […] we are living out the postcolonial, all of us, across the world” (33). On the other hand, a decolonial movement imagines a more active stance.

The idea of decoloniality stems from an emerging Latin American movement, which seeks to make clear that inequalities shaped by colonisation are perpetuated today by Western imperialism and globalisation. According to Anibal Quijano, the practice of decoloniality is a search for “social liberation from all power that is organised as inequality, discrimination, exploitation and domination” (178). These ideas have spread beyond Latin America, creating movements around the world that aim to decolonise various institutions by delinking them from Eurocentric thought.

Elena Filipovic points out that “we are more conscious in recent decades that modernity is a construct that has suppressed, obscured or transformed whole cultural histories and their producers” (49). In Amsterdam, several groups are forming to strengthen these ideas. The University of Colour is a group that fights for a greater balance in the demographics and curriculum of the university, which should include non-Eurocentric perspectives. Another local movement is called Decolonize the Museum. They make “an effort to confront the colonial ideas and practices present in ethnographic museums up until this day.” The critique comes from the groups whose heritage has been put on display in museums, but who themselves do not feel to be the target group of the exhibitions. I will now discuss an exhibition space in Amsterdam which actively searches for postcolonial curatorial practices.

Framer Framed is a small room, situated in the Tolhuistuin, which holds concerts and others events, and has a popular restaurant attached. Framer Framed was started as an initiative to deliberate contemporary curatorial practices, specifically in relation to politics of representation. In other words, while considering the way some individuals tend to stand in for others. In line with the pattern of modernity that Filipovic describes, the curators aim to overcome the “shortcomings of modernist definitions that constitute the foundation of their respective institutions”. The title, Framer Framed, is inspired by Vietnamese filmmaker, Trinh T. Minh-ha, whose films refuse to adopt an ethnographic gaze. In other words, she refuses to speak for subjects through her camera. The curation practices in this space could be seen to disrupt Western traditions to some extent.

The current exhibition at Framer Framed is called Voices Outside the Echo Chamber: Questioning Myths, Facts and Framings of Migration. An echo chamber is an enclosed space that reverberates sounds. As the use of this metaphor suggests, by listening to voices outside of the echo chamber, the exhibition is interested in obscured or oppressed histories. Katayoun Arian, the curator, is wary of so-called echo chambers in which “individuals intensify their world-views by surrounding themselves with information that corroborates and echoes back their own beliefs”. Whilst attending the exhibition, I felt that many of the installations convey a sensation of anger, outrage and exhaustion. Several of the artists adopt a satirical lens to comment on current migration discourses. Two of the installations which made an effective use of the moving image where The Negotiation by Kaya Behkalam and Azin Feizabadi, and Condecoración by Daniela Ortiz.

The screen for The Negotiation is not directly noticeable when walking around the exhibition. Behind one of the walls is a black box created with the use of curtains. Inside, the film shows a group of actors in their own black box space, a set that is meant to resemble the UN Security council. The actors stage a round table meeting around an unnamed crisis. The actors move around the space, exploring the borders between fact and fiction, between the individual and the collective. There is a visible cutting up of the round table, which is missing a segment. This interruption in the shape could be linked to similar interruptions that Framer Framed makes in the form of their own exhibition. The space itself could be described as a white cube, a form which Filipovic is critical of. But there are breaks in the architecture caused by random walls and corners. In other words, the cube is not really a cube. Could both the video installation and the room itself be seen to experiment with the traditional Western forms which Filipovic hopes to see transform?

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‘The Negotiation’ by Kaya Behkalam and Azin Feizabadi

In the video component of Condecoración, Ortiz is shown slapping a white sculpture. Her piece is introduced as a commentary on the invisibility of the migratory control system in Europe. The sculpture is an attempt to make visible one of the responsible individuals, since it is a replication of the current Executive Director of FRONTEX (a migratory control agency). As the viewer continues on from the video installation, they are confronted by the damaged sculpture from the video.  Ortiz is one of the artists who will come to speak about her research as part of the dialogue series organised by the curators, further allowing for a confrontation for the audience.

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‘Condecoración’ by Daniela Ortiz

According to Filipovic, “the aesthetic and intellectual premises on which an exhibition is based […] need to be more fully articulated in the forms exhibitions take” (58). It would seem that, in order to be decolonised, an exhibition must become inherently political. How can the message of an exhibition better be articulated? Voices Outside the Echo Chamber works hard to live on outside the curated space, by providing an abundance of paper components for the visitor to take home (such as a mock-up of a newspaper or a list of the employees at FRONTEX). By taking a piece of the art home, the visitor is more likely to continue thinking about the message. Filipovic finds that a curator can be described as a political activist (50). In my understanding, the most desired result of decolonised curatorial practices, is to politically activate the visitor.

Sources
‘Curating/Curatorial: A Conversation between Irit Rogoff and Beatrice von Bismarck’. In Beatrice von Bismarck, Jörn Schafaff and Thomas Weski, eds.Cultures of the Curatorial. Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2012. 21-38.
Filipovic, Elena. ‘The Global White Cube’. oncurating.org, issue 22. April 2014. 45-63.
Minh-ha, Trinh T. Framer Framed. New York: Routledge, 1992.
Quijano, Anibal. ‘Coloniality and Modernity/Rationality’. Cultural Studies, 21:2-3. April 2007. 168-178.

 

The Exhibition: Suriname-Nederland 40 jaar later

In preparation for the May 24 Research Lab A Sensorium of Cinematic Apparatuses, the students of the UvA MA seminar Curating the Moving Image reflect in their blog posts on a particular aspect of the themes in the required theoretical readings or on the development of the curated EYE on Art evening.

Decolonizing the Curatorial
By Floor Wijers

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During this course we learned a lot about different aspects of curatorial activities. The topic of this week, decolonizing the colonial, connects a couple of earlier topics we discussed in class. It locates itself between curating galleries and festivals, but is more concerned about the minorities and their participation within these events.

The first article of Elina Felipovic, from this week, focuses on the different exhibition spaces. These places based on exposing art, like galleries, museums and biennales, all have an underlying ideology, which is constructed by western ideas of exhibiting art. One of the most important examples is the ‘white cube,’ which like the cinematic ‘black-box’ is aimed to distract the viewer from the outside world and give the art piece a neutral environment. To create more equal proportions, we have to listen more to the voice of people out of decolonized countries or minorities. Every time there is a gallery or exhibition it is arranged around white modern western notions and standards.

When Elinor and I discussed this week’s topic of decolonization in art, we came up with a couple of useful case studies and examples. The most obvious museum to approach is, in our eyes, the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam, but we decided to choose for alternative options to be more original. So we searched for other exhibitions in less well-known museums or exposition spaces. Because I am living in Leiden, I looked into the program of the museum of Volkenkunde (an anthropological museum in Leiden.) I found out they had an exhibition about 40 years of decolonization of Suriname, and the relationship between the Netherlands and Suriname after the independence in 1975. This topic seemed ideal to dive deeper into, regarded this weeks theme. Elinor found an exposition space with an exhibition about migration, Voices outside the Echo Chamber, in the Tolhuistuin and organised by Framer Framed. In this way we could both approach the topic in different ways.

So I visited the exhibition Suriname-Nederland 40 jaar later, 1975-2015, in the Volkenkunde Leiden. This exhibition was a really small part of the museum space, there was only one room filled with TV-screens. These TV-screens showed different compilations of clips with historical polygon journals/ news shows. Around the room there where portraits of Surinamese and Dutch people who played important roles during the independency of Suriname. There where quotes of people who flew Suriname or who travelled back from the Netherlands to Suriname, it made clear that the independency caused disunity by the Surinamese people. Also it is important to take into consideration that the independency meant that the Netherlands broke all connections with the colony, their where a lot of negotiations between the Netherlands and Suriname about the costs of development and the involvement of the Netherlands to create a fresh start for Suriname after the decolonization.

The exhibition showed videos of these negotiations between ex-prime minister Joop den Uyl and the Surinamese government. The independency caused a big national feast, but there where also many people who where more sceptic about the events. After the videos about the declaration of independency, the exhibition focused on the aftermath of the liberation of Suriname. Without the authority of the Netherlands, Suriname became a little bit out of control; this led to a military coup of general Desi Bouterse, in 1980. One of the cruellest events in the history of Suriname took place during this period, the December murders in 1982. In Fort Zeelandia, headquarter of Desi Bouterse, 15 opponents of Bouters regime where tortured and shot to dead. This led to a lot of migration from Surinamese people who fled to neighbour country French-Guyana and the Netherlands.

Besides the videos, there was a lot of background information on signs, aligned with photographs capturing the events around the independency and the period afterwards. Also the exhibition showed a few artworks from Dutch artists in collaboration with Surinamese artists, but the main focus lay on the historical events. The situation regarding to contemporary art in Suriname is similar to the situation of India, as described by Geeta Kapur. There is less attention to modern art, and very few museums in Suriname; the ones that exist are based on historical events and the colonial past. In Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname, there are only three main museums, all focused on the history of the country, before and after the independency of Suriname from the Netherlands. Modern art is very exceptional and can only be found in special galleries, curated by rich people. Although the exhibition showed different point of views about the decolonization of Suriname, the current position of Suriname was underexposed.

The best way to pay attention to colonial and decolonization is to take into account different viewpoints. This makes it very difficult to create a neutral point of view, because colonial past and decolonization is experienced in very different ways. In both camps there are proponents and opponents. The most important thing I learned about this week’s topic and the exhibition in Volkenkunde, is that we have to create awareness to the different stores and underexposed decolonised countries. We have to listen more to the input of people of decolonized countries. We should give them a stage to carry out their side of the history and create spaces wherein they can express their feelings and creativity.

 

MoTA Museum of Transitory Art: museum beyond the walls

In preparation for the May 24 Research Lab A Sensorium of Cinematic Apparatuses, the students of the UvA MA seminar Curating the Moving Image reflect in their blog posts on a particular aspect of the themes in the required theoretical readings or on the development of the curated EYE on Art evening.

Curating 2.0
By Nadja Šičarov

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MoTA Museum of Transitory Art is a non-profit organisation founded in 2007 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, which started as a programme of the CodeEp Cultural Association, an association established to explore fields of contemporary visual communication, electronic music and urban performance. MoTA describes itself as “a multidisciplinary platform dedicated to advancing the research, production and presentation of transitory, experimental, and live art forms”. Instead of realising its programme in a permanent physical exposition space, MoTA exists as artists – and curators – run alternative organisation which takes place in various virtual and real spaces. Its main activities are based on funding artists’ residencies, amongst a realization of a broad variety of projects, festivals, performances, and symposia.

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The transformation of art of the last century has been tending towards the novelty – after modern and contemporary art, new media art came to existence as the consequence of cultural practice that arose with new media technologies. As with any other novelty, new artistic practices were reflected noticeably in modifying existing exposition models. For Boris Groys a museum “is not so much the space for the representation of art history as a machine to produce and stage the new art of today—in other words, to produce “today” as such. In this sense the museum produces, for the first time, the effect of presence, of looking alive.[1] However, transitory art is refusing terminology that tends towards the new, such as modern, contemporary or new media art, but rather remains a subject of transition from one artistic form to another and the convergence of analogue and digital. According to these specificities, the establishment of a museum which explores the conceptual and contextual boundaries of art examines the museological model of the future. Yet the notion of a museum in transition is not quite unknown. Sarah Cook and Beryl Graham wrote that the emergence of new media art has undoubtedly adjusted institutional models of presentation due to the technically variable nature of artworks.[2] After having followed the on-going technological shifts in museum practices for a few decades, it is now time to address how transitory art might extend these modifications. Is the landscape of coexisting digital and material culture able to reshape museological structure, ordinarily based on site-specificity, collecting, preservation, presentation and distribution?

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From historical perspectives, museums have traditionally played a role of a hierarchical institution that delivers the artists’ works from its collection to the audience through curated exhibitions and performances. However, Frieling suggested that the process of exhibiting a collection should be rather understood as an “expanded performance” where the artist, the institution and the public are equally engaged in the production of art, based on either material objects, digitally- or participatory-based experience.[3] For this type of experience, the performance is not dependent on the physical museum – it can extend beyond the walls of the site-located institution and be performed on a variety of online platforms or as temporal events.

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However, both institutions and artists can benefit from site specificity – for artists it represents the mode of avoiding individual participation in the art market, while institutions can use the reputation of a place as promotional tool for their activities.[4] In addition, long-term presentation in a location-based gallery gives artists recognition and offers them an opportunity for validation by academia and art criticism. This is particularly meaningful for artists that are practising new media art. Online platforms namely present virtual space for an unlimited distribution of web-based art, rather than it being selected by well-recognized curators. Thus the emergence of new media art hasn’t only increased the importance of a curator as an agent in the chain of the art market, but has also given museums the credibility of an agency that delivers refined and critically chosen works to a specified audience. In addition, institutional engagement with artists and distribution of their artworks allows for collaborative approach in the production phase as well. For example, apart from organizing multiple workshops and educational programs MoTA is running T.R.I.B.E., a network of residency spaces in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Following this, one of the most crucial activities that MoTA is performing takes an important part in the production and distribution of artworks.

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What results from establishing a museum that is a subject of convergence of new media art and contemporary art is the reconstruction of key concepts typical of a museum. Although the museum is not site-specific, it maintains some traditional parameters. The idea of a collection is being preserved through financial sponsorship and participation in production, while educational activities are held in a shape of the portal Artist Talk, an online platform for publishing and distribution of artist talks across Europe. In addition, in 2013 MoTA opened a new venue The MoTA Point, A Space for Art and Ideas, which performs a role of a working space for resident artists and workshops as well as a temporary exhibition space with the purpose to show works which are the result of continuous events at MoTA and will after the exposition continue to exist in virtual space or as temporal events. Taking these parameters into account, I believe MoTA is a significant example of a “museum that lives beyond the walls” which embodies the intersection of the established museological model and the nature of new transitory art.

[1] Groys, Boris. “On the New.” Artnodes December 2002. Artnodes online. Web. 7 May 2016.

[2] Graham, Beryl, and Sarah Cook. Rethinking Curating: Art after New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2010. 211. Print.

[3] Frieling, Rudolf. “The Museum as Producer: Processing art and Performing a Collection.” New Collecting: Exhibiting and Audiences after New Media Art. Ed. Beryl Graham. Burlington: Ashgate, 2014. 156. Print.

[4] Ibid. 145.

Ceci n’est pas… – A thought on cinema and sight

In preparation for the May 24 Research Lab A Sensorium of Cinematic Apparatuses, the students of the UvA MA seminar Curating the Moving Image reflect in their blog posts on a particular aspect of the themes in the required theoretical readings or on the development of the curated EYE on Art evening.

Curation Histories, Curation Philosophies
By Lisanne van den Heuvel

René Margritte once said about his famous image of a pipe painted on canvas: ‘The famous pipe. How people reproached me for it! And yet, could you stuff my pipe? No, it’s just a representation, is it not? So if I had written on my picture ‘This is a pipe’, I’d have been lying![i] Of course, when we are looking at a painting we are in fact just looking at a carrier covered with paint. So, what is it than what we see when we as an audience sit down in our cosy seats at the cinema, the lights get dimmed and the film starts to play? This essay tries to illuminate on the hunger for people to go and watch representations of real life in light.

With his statement Margritte emphasises a point Maurice Denis stated 40 years earlier in 1890 when he said that ‘before a picture is subject matter, it is first of all a surface covered with lines and colors.’[ii] Brian O’Doherty describes the relation of illusionism in painting evolving to abstraction with its focus on the surface (covered with lines and colors) of the object and how this relates to the space and other objects with which the object is surrounded. He described the relation of illusionistic paintings to the space they were hanging before the twentieth century as entities excluding the wall: ‘For the easel picture is like a portable window that, once set on the wall, penetrates it with deep space [..] The wall itself is always recognized as limiting dept (you don’t walk trough it), just as corners and ceilings [..] limit size.’[iii] In this light, the illusionistic films that are screened in the cinema right now are probably comparable to a certain extent as how paintings were approached before the twentieth century. The walls surrounding the screens are denied by making them invisible by shutting the lights down. The screen itself must be as flat as possible so the screening can act as an ultimate window that penetrates it with deep space, with the dark space acting as a frame. How different would an experience in a cinema be if for example the screening was available on at least two walls and if the screen would not be flat and white?

To come back at Denis: what is a film than before it is subject matter? You could say that film is first of all a surface covered with light and the element of time is included, this definition would fit the analogical screening as well as a digital screening of film. Philippe- Alain Michaud explains in a dissertation ‘The movement of images’ how in the last decade many artists have been playing with these variables in film which include light, darkness, the cinematic apparatus, the screen, time, space, the place of the public.[iv] When he arrives at a section describing experimental art he mentions Paul Sharits production of ‘ Shutter Interface’ from 1975: ‘By using a modified projector with the shutter and the engaging claw removed, Paul Sharits produces a flow of colours with neither definition nor outline: the focus is no longer the ultimate end of the image, the film no longer appears as a discreet continuum of photograms, but a variant of the monochrome.’[v] (see fig 1.) This is what to my opinion what film can be in its truest form: (coloured) light on a flat surface without the element of time linked to a realistic narrative.

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Figure 1. Paul Sharits, Shutter Interface, 1975. Photo courtesy of Smithsonian, source: https://www.si.edu/tbma/hmsg_sharits.

So what is it than, that when we go to the cinema we would rather be overwhelmed by representations of life than to for example watch hours of abstract images of colours flickering, which would be the material essence of film. Why are we so attracted to the illustionistic image? Probably this is a subject of large content and that has sociological, historical and psychological aspects to it and unfortunately I cannot claim to have found the perfect answer to this question. However, I have found a blog in which Brett McCracken has vividly written why he thinks why we watch naturalistic movies: ‘Movies are different because they can capture, probe, explore the world in ways no other medium can.[..] Movies are visceral.’[vi] In fact he sais that when you are watching a‘naturalistic’ film, feelings are provoked and senses are stimulated in an intuitive manner.

In our cinematic event you will be challenged to be consciously aware of your senses in the cinema. In several ways we will be trying to evoke stimuli to let you experience the pivotal role your senses play in making a film more than light flickering on a screen. We will aim for letting you experience the subject matter and at the same time making you consciously aware of space, screen time, light and the filmic apparatus So in the end, hopefully, giving you a material -as well as a visceral experience.

[i] Torczyner, Harry. Margritte: Ideas and images. p.71.

[ii] O’Doherty, Brian. Inside the white cube: the ideology of the gallery space. P.22.

[iii] O’Doherty, Brian. Inside the white cube: the ideology of the gallery space. P.18.

[iv] Michaud, Philippe-Alain. The movement of images. 15-30.

[v] Michaud, Philippe-Alain. The movement of images. 23.

[vi] McCracken, Brett. Why do we watch movies? 2015. Souce: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/film/why-do-we-watch-movies

 

 

 

Figure 1. Paul Sharits, Shutter Interface, 1975. Photo courtesy of Smithsonian, source: https://www.si.edu/tbma/hmsg_sharits.

 

Power and Protocol: Problematising control over the digital and producing media art on the deep web

In preparation for the May 24 Research Lab A Sensorium of Cinematic Apparatuses, the students of the UvA MA seminar Curating the Moving Image reflect in their blog posts on a particular aspect of the themes in the required theoretical readings or on the development of the curated EYE on Art evening.

Curating 2.0
By Alex Jost

The transferral of media art to the digital domain is fraught with problems. Are we dealing with a reduction in complexity of works? What might be lost in the conversion process? How does curation of a digital archive handle the variability and seriality inherent to a great deal of media art?

A start is made to answering these kinds of questions by Cosetta Saba in her article ‘Media Art and the Digital Archive’ (2013) [1]. It is a text concerned with the 1 epistemological implications of digitisation; how is our experience and knowledge of media art affected by digital archiving? The crux of this matter resides in the ontological complication of the artwork. Information objects are created out of artworks’ documentation, and their dissemination to the consumer is problematised by issues such as dead links and incomplete or inaccurate metadata. The need for constant maintenance via cyclical monitoring programs is clear. Saba’s survey of these inherent complications of digitisation goes into depth concerning protocol: the methods by which data is organised, channeled and distributed online. Herein we identify the narrative­forming jigsaw piece in a distributed network. Is the Internet really a place of unrestricted freedom? Through the silent dimension of protocol, says Saba, we really find power at work. Says Wolfgang Ernst “this power is analogous to the power of media, which depends on the fact that media hide and dissimulate their technological apparatus through their content, which is an effect of their interface.”[2]

What about digital­born media works? What if a work’s procedure and metadata coincide in the same operative field? The distinction between a works data and metadata then implodes[3]. The case I shall present here illustrates this implosion. On 3 the esoterically named http://0100101110101101.org/ we find the work of New York based Italian artists Eva and Franco Mattes. Commissioned by Abandon Normal Devices (link), Dark Content (2015) is described as “A series of videos about internet content moderators: the extraordinarily significant, yet elusive, individuals who determine how much breast is too much breast for Instagram, or are tasked with scrubbing photos of Osama bin Laden from search engines.” Accessing the videos is not as simple as visiting the website, however. Further instructions: “New episodes are released periodically only on the Darknet. To watch them download the Tor Browser and go to http://5cqzpj5d6ljxqsj7.onion

Alex

‘I would prefer not to give my name’ Dark Content (2015), Eva and Franco Mattes

The first question, to my mind, is how does one go about archiving a work like the video series Dark Content? The experience of the work is irrevocably entangled with what for most viewers may well be their first time using the ‘deep’ or ‘dark’ web via the Tor browser. Given the media coverage this side of the Internet has conjured over the last few years, through things like trade of illicit goods and services, one’s first forays in the Tor browser are likely to produce an edginess to the experience that a regular visit to a regular website would do in a regular browser. The confessional descriptions given of working as web content moderators are delivered by animated people with uncanny facial movements and text­to­speech voices. This somewhat casts a veil of anonymity over Dark Content, rendering our viewing of the work, to a degree, complicit in something shadowy. The process of arriving at the work, and complicity upon arrival triangulate to form a unique inclusionary media art experience.

I would argue that this angle to experiencing Dark Content is fundamental to the work, and also fundamentally unarchivable. The reduction of the complexity of feeling is too extreme ­ by effectively making innocuous a work whose process is an invitation to the internet’s dark side, we lose too much meaning by folding the work into a neatly documented institutional page. As the volume of online­based media work with dark locales increases, must we discuss the potentialities of a dark archive?

Dark Content addresses the very topic of control via Internet protocol. The next time we encounter dead links online, the surprising lack of something where we expect it, we would do well to pause to consider if our desired destination was deleted for a purpose. Alex Galloway’s 2004 volume Protocol describes its subject, viewed as a whole, as “a distributed management system that allows control to exist within a heterogenous material milieu.”[4] I previously mentioned that exercising control over 4 data is a silent but power­demonstrating dimension to information flow discourse. An immaterial realm is demonstrated in Dark Content’s third episode ‘His Reign Stops Here’ to have a crushingly mundane material reality. The narrator describes the cubical style working environment at IAC, the parent company of Vimeo. Here he worked as a moderator in shifts of up to nine hours at a time, staring at two screens, reviewing videos that had been flagged for inappropriate content. An analogy is made to brick­and­mortar stores and businesses: in these establishments inappropriate or offensive language and behaviour leads to arrest ­ why is an online service any different? He describes his work as ‘keeping the peace’. And so Dark Content goes on, making quite material the work of those silent actors online whose presence is intangible but whose work carries a tremendous importance.

I’d encourage the reader to take the steps advised of downloading the Tor browser and following the link to the Dark Content series. A unique vantage point for awaits: reflecting on how information is organised online, and how difficult processes of forming an archive can be with works as involving and subversive as Dark Content.

[1] Saba, Cosetta. “Media Art and the Digital Archive” in Julia Noordegraaf et.al, eds. Preserving and Exhibiting Media Art: Challenges and Perspectives. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2013. 101­-120.
[2] Ernst, Wolfgang. “Underway to the dual system. Classical Archives and/or Digital Memory” in Dieter Daniels and Gunther Reisinger eds. Netpioneers 1.0 Contextualizing Early Net­based Art. Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2010. 87.
[3] Ibid. 51.
[4]  Galloway, Alexander. Protocol. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2004. xix & 7­8.

Machinima as a Sensorial Cinematic Apparatus

In preparation for the May 24 Research Lab A Sensorium of Cinematic Apparatuses, the students of the UvA MA seminar Curating the Moving Image reflect in their blog posts on a particular aspect of the themes in the required theoretical readings or on the development of the curated EYE on Art evening.

Curating 2.0
By George Barker

On the 24th May at the EYE Film museum the Curating the Moving Image students – of which I am one of – will be programming an evening with the intent to reveal “some of the sensuous iterations of moving image practices throughout their histories, and in doing so, reflect on changes and connections between apparatuses of the past and present”. In this short blog post, I will unveil the possibilities and difficulties behind one curatorial trajectory for the event by describing how a selection of Machinima films could well fit within the rubric of an exhibition that is entitled ‘Sensorium of Moving Image Apparatuses’.

Why Machinima?

A term coined by Hugh Hancock in 1997, Machinima (a portmanteau of machine and cinema) are computer game narratives which are created in virtual reality within the boundaries of particular game engine systems and softwares. Rather rapidly the term became synonymous with often poorly realised fan-driven narrative films, although now the website which was initially built to house, collect and catalogue such works, Machinima.com, has an expanded concept of what the word itself constitutes; stating that it brings together “a community passionate about video games, animation, movies, TV, and the other endless forms of pop culture”. In a sense, Machinima allowed fans everywhere to become the author of their own gaming or cinematic vision, because of the ubiquity of the computer game apparatus as a household moving image making tool, holding a democratizing potential has been further noted by Elijah Horwatt. Yet Machinima do not only represent a certain shift in the apparatuses of moving image making but also in the sensorial relationships at play between the moving image maker, the image itself, and the spectator.

Of course there is a fundamental change in the relationship between created image and the creator evident in the production of Machinima that makes it different from a film camera. Here, real-time narratives unfold directly on the screen and moving images are made based on a sustained touch and movement of the apparatus (be it a computer game mouse or console controller) by the user. As it appears a tenant of our curatorial philosophy within this programme is slightly media archaeological – connecting apparatuses of the past and the present – machinima could well be connected to earlier apparatuses based on a similar touch-interaction, such as optical toy devices, the kinetoscope or mutoscope, so that our programme could expand more normative conceptions of a film dispositif where traditionally touch is excluded from the cinematic experience. Programming Machinima within the EYE as a means of educating the audience in expanded discourses surrounding the possible contemporary constitutions of cinema would find institutional footing, given that the film museum houses an Iphone in it’s Panorama exhibition as a ‘film device’. However, rather than use the word film, I would instead be cautious with semantics and instead introduce Machinima as a moving image apparatus, pertaining to Noel Carroll’s redefinition of film in light of the new media landscape that is outlined extensively in Theorizing the Moving Image.

Which Machinima?

Another reason to exhibit Machinima in this exhibition is that not only has it not (to my knowledge) been exhibited before at the EYE, but it is also not in the EYE’s catalogue and therefore it would be bringing a new example of a cinematic apparatus and aesthetic history to the museum space. If presenting Machinima moving images in the EYE as an introduction to the genre / movement / medium itself, I initially thought it fruitful to show the more populist works, such as that which is catalogued on Machinima.com, or perhaps even excerpts from BloodSpell, one of the longest Machinima films created using now antiquated computer programme systems and graphic engines.

PeggyAhwesh

Peggy Ahwesh, She Puppet, 2001

However, the series for this programme is entitled EYE on Art, so more experimental works such as Peggy Ahwesh’s She Puppet or the works of Phil Solomon, perhaps Last Days in a Lonely Place came to mind. Particularly, both of these moving images confront digital materiality and virtuality, encouraging haptic ruptures and breaks by exposing graphic glitches in the computer programme as the main character collides and merges with the scenery. Therefore, the works themselves in a way inculcate a phenomenological appreciation of digital surfaces within the viewer, and the work of Laura U.Marks, Jennifer Barker or Vivian Sobchack could be used as a theoretical framework from which to argue the sensorial potency of these more avant-garde Machinima film in particular.

Configuring Machinima within the ‘Sensorium of Moving Image Apparatuses’.

After having researched Machinima as a possibility for the programme, I also thought about how to present such works within a broader evening which wanted to touch upon a variety of apparatuses throughout moving image history, as well as looking at the senses. For this purpose, I thought it would be of interest to bring in a television screen and PlayStation 2 at the side of the cinema and have a student play Tomb Raider alongside She Puppet, or Grand Theft Auto alongside Last Days in a Lonely Place, thus ‘unveiling’ the apparatus technology alongside the work. So, this was my pitch to the curatorial team of students at the University of Amsterdam. Ultimately, we collectively decided that Machinima, although relevant to the evening programme, perhaps required too much contextualisation for the uninformed visitor and was too radical a departure from the rest of the filmworks to be included in this presentation. Indeed, perhaps a Machinima exhibition would be better suited outside of a cinema space regardless, in an environment where the viewer can themselves both simultaneously play the game and watch the machinima, in a 2 channel installation format.

Further Reading:
Elijah Horwatt, New Media Resistance, Machinima and the Avant Garde, Cineaction 73/74 (2008).

Jennifer Ng, Understanding Machinima: Essays on Filmmaking in Virtual Worlds (London: Bloomsbury, 2013).